jim benning

Taste Of NHL Pays Dividends For Canucks Pick Kole Lind

As bad as the preseason has been for the Canucks, it seems to have paid off in spades for multiple prospects still on the roster and players that have been sent back to junior/AHL. Case in point Kole Lind, 2017 2nd round Canucks pick (like you didn’t know).  Lind was sent back just in time to join his Kelowna Rockets teammates before the first game of the WHL season.

He didn’t need much time to adjust. Whatever the Canucks coaches taught him, he put into use right away.

In the Rockets’ home opener on Friday, Lind made quick work of the Kamloops Blazers defense and eventually their goaltender, fellow 2017 draftee Dylan Ferguson.

Here’s an assist a bit later in the game; the patience he shows is scary impressive:

Torching the Kamloops Blazers doesn’t put Lind in MVP consideration quite yet but he was far and away the Rockets best player and after collecting 8 points through 2 games this weekend, he’ll be hungry each and every night.

What Lind will eventually bring to the Canucks is the ability to score goals with a release similar to current Canuck hopeful Brock Boeser and retired great Markus Naslund. He is well used on the penalty kill and has gone end to end untouched while his team is down a man. That won’t be a regular occurrence in the NHL

The Rockets are a very different looking team this season with Nick Merkley,  Lucas Johansen and Calvin Thurkauf moving on, as well as the unknown fate of Dillon Dube at Flames camp. Kole Lind will be targeted as one of the top producers on his team this year but much like last season when he led the Rockets with 87 points, he’ll challenge for top spot again.

Vancouver will be keeping a close eye on Lind this year with the current youth movement afoot, a monster season in Kelowna could push his stock way up to a potential roster spot next year on the Canucks. It will be interesting to compare gameplay with Boeser and Lind this year to see how they matchup in relation to their competition.

Coach Jason Smith of the Rockets has Lind available in almost every game situation and that speaks well of his talents. When he does eventually turn pro, Kole will have a solid arsenal of weapons every time he steps on the ice and Travis Green will trust him with more than just 5v5 ice time.

Jim Benning hit a home run with the 2017 2nd rounder and if Lind can hold up his end of the bargain there may be more future picks out of the Okanagan. We all know it’s been invisible until this past year.

Follow me on Twitter @always90four

 

photo – The Hockey News

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What’s On The Infamous Canucks Team iPad?

If you’ve bothered to stay informed with the Canucks through the last quarter of the season you no doubt have heard about the Canucks iPad. It has old Youtube videos, line combination ideas, and plays that never got further than crossing their own blue line. Many listeners of the Pat Cast with Jeff Paterson and Jason Botchford as well as readers of Botchford’s Province articles have heard of the “Chris Pronger videos” the coaches showed Nikita Tryamkin to encourage him to play more aggressive.

It obviously didn’t work and Tryamkin bolted back to the KHL. But what else was on this infamous iPad that caused the Canucks coaches to consistently shake their heads in disappointment as the team plummetted down the standings? Well, you’re in luck!

I was able to pull some strings and get the password to look around in there. It wasn’t that hard to crack though, “Password1234” was my 3rd guess and Huzzah! it worked. So needless to say, I wanted to share what I found. I do have to warn everyone, there is some shockingly terrifying stuff on here that really makes me wonder the direction this team is really headed.

The Pronger Vids

You have to be impressed that the Canucks think so highly of Chris Pronger that they made an app of all his hits and highlights. With the need to find aggression in the lineup and especially through the departed Tryamkin, they probably went too far when they showed him stomping on Ryan Kesler’s leg. It’s conceivable BFG was willing to hit harder and get a bit more aggressive but forcing his skate on someone to cut their leg off was the deal breaker.

First page looks pretty normal otherwise, looks like the Canucks have their own Slack account. Smart to have a working message board there. I did notice that they modified the NOTES app to be exclusively about Jayson Megna. Kind of disturbing if you ask me, but when he was out on the ice in every situation, I suppose having quick access to who plays well with Megna is a good idea?

Special Teams, Deals, and BOE

The biggest shocker for me was seeing that they subscribe to Jyrki21’s “Benning On Empty”. This comic strip is so much bigger than I gave it credit for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hilarious every single week and he really crushes the takes from a unique angle but the fact the Canucks follow him and made an effort to be a tap away from reading, that’s awesome!

A power play app makes sense to have. When they’re in the heat of the action, looking at some quick ideas or successful setups could make the difference between losing and advancing in the playoffs. OK, not THIS team quite yet, but you get the idea. As the Canucks struggles on the man-advantage increase ten-fold this past season, the power play app seems like a welcome addition to the team. It couldn’t make them any worse, that’s for sure!

There was one app I was kind of questioning for awhile and that is the Groupon app. The one I know has deals on food, shopping, hotels, and some questionable items that you probably shouldn’t be looking to get a deal on. What I found was that the NHL has a player transaction app kind of like the EA Sports games where you can sign, trade and scour the market for additions under the Groupon app logo so no one is the wiser.

It wasn’t hidden that well as I only had to swipe right a few times. I’m glad there wasn’t a Tinder app on here, I really don’t know how I would have handled that.

Back To Square One

Makes sense, finishing the season with a PP of 14.1% would be worth deleting that app. It was suggested on Twitter, in the papers and on the airwaves so it makes perfect sense that the Canucks gave up on the man-advantage as well.

So there you have it, the Canucks iPad in a nutshell. Not too glamourous but it should help set some things straight on how this team operates on a day-to-day basis and what goes on during the game.

Imagine what their Apple Watch would look like?

Save that for another day.

Follow me on the twitter: @always90four

Next Season Crucial In Proper Canucks Rebuild

To say the next couple of years are important for the Canucks would be an understatement. It’s huge. Making the change at the coaching position and slowly dismantling the old regime were important to show the fans, not everything that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning said was a complete lie. The fans and media alike, have been told many different things over the course of the “retool on the fly” era and for the most part, it failed.

The inconsistent message that has been preached outwards has just confused the process for the fans, media and I would guess the players as well. Not knowing the direction the Canucks are headed can’t be easy when the players can’t even see where the team is headed. Linden needs, to be honest, and officially call this a rebuild.

How this team was able to be so fantastically deconstructed in such a short amount of time is truly amazing. What the Canucks failed to do was to have a succession plan or the very least passable options when moves were made. That is starting to happen now but it came at a fairly high cost. Giving up on players like Gustav Forsling, Zack Kassian, Nick Bonino and shipping off high draft picks at the same time just muddied the state the team was in.

I get it, those moves all had different situations attached to them but looking at each of them, it feels like Vancouver didn’t give them a true chance. Management has stuck by Luca Sbisa, Brandon Sutter and given an aging Loui Eriksson a hefty, long-term deal. If the Canucks are rebuilding, all of these moves feel like they were poorly thought out. There is no room to take on smaller contracts and the small contracts they HAVE taken on could have been avoided.

But fear not, this is not all doom and gloom, there is hope still to be found but don’t expect to see it next season or the season after. Providing a few things go the Canucks way, and one of those things is the placement in this year’s NHL Entry draft, the Canucks might be able to put a realistic timetable on the changes that are coming.

It’s no secret that picks #1 and #2 hold a lot of value and can slightly speed up the process of the Canucks rebuild. Having a centre that can instantly be inserted into the lineup to take the 3rd line pivot job can force Benning to look at moving Sutter. If Sutter is claimed in the expansion draft, that is all moot anyway and the #ExposeSutter movement will have succeeded.

Looking at point production, there is optimism, not much but a bit. Henrik finished with 50 points and it could be argued Daniel probably could have been there too! Bo Horvat led the team with 52 points and again, had Sven Baertschi had a healthy season he could have challenged for a 45ish point campaign.

Injuries crushed the Canucks this season which hampered the point production and a failure to adapt on the power play when it hit all-time lows as well as not allowing late game heroics due to poor line deployment absolutely cost the team both points on the scoreboard and in the standings. How that changes in October has yet to be seen.

So, having four potential 50 point players makes the Canucks a little more believable as a rebuilding team on the rise but don’t expect the same type of production after the season they had. Teams have figured the Canucks out and it will take a complete overhaul of their current structure to make the team competitive again. New look power play units, emphasis on available speed and holding on to the puck instead of the ever-predictable dump and chase.

There are players in the lineup that can make some of this happen and a few new ones as well. Ollie Juolevi looks ready to take on the NHL game and Jake Virtanen seems to have cut weight and sculpted his frame to fit in as well. I have no clue if they even make the opening night roster but with an offseason of opportunity, both players know they can earn a spot.

How about the late additions?

Even though we’ve only been given a small sample of Nikolay Goldobin and Brock Boeser, the talent these two possess has been noticed. Boeser made an immediate impact notching four goals and an assist in nine games to finish the year. Goldobin put up three goals in his first 12 with the Canucks. It wasn’t just the production on the scoresheet but the ability to use their linemates effectively and trust the talent they have. These guys know they’re good and with a new coach, their chances to succeed may be higher than when Willie Desjardins was at the helm.

The youth movement will be a lot more visible come the 2017/18 season, which is what many have asked for. I doubt there will be much change in the standings and Vancouver realistically may fall even further before they climb back up the ranks. Seeing an entire line of players under 24 years of age that are leading the Canucks is something worth noting.

Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi seem to present the future of the franchise while the Sedins may get the opportunity to bring a player like Goldobin along and groom him for his future reign in the NHL. I think it would be a great idea to potentially split the Sedins up on both power play units.

Not an original idea, I know. What I’d love to see would be Daniel on the first unit and Henrik on the second. Putting Horvat/Daniel/Baertschi up front to start and maybe Troy Stecher and Olli Juolevi on the back end would be my choice. Assuming they don’t score right away ( a safe assumption), bring on Henrik as the lines transition and allow the Sedins to potentially capitalize on the shift.

They have been beyond predictable for the last few seasons and this change would allow a small hybrid of ice time before putting Henrik out with potentially Eriksson and maybe Boeser or Goldobin. You may all think this is crazy talk but I’d say there is some merit there. This could also be applied to the regular 5-on-5 lines but trying it on the power play would be a good start.

Keeping the Sedins in the fold as productive 2nd and eventually, 3rd line players put them right back where their careers took off when they were alongside Trevor Linden. A depth pair of players that can be counted on to keep the lines moving and keeps the focus on the top two lines which in turn creates more scoring chances, probably not goals, but chances.

The focus on faceoffs was once again taken seriously in 2016. Manny Malhotra was brought on and the team climbed back up to finish 9th in the league with a 51.1% success rate. It was a bit less than the famed 2011 season at 54.9% but even then, this year’s position would have been good for 10th in 2011. It’s like they focused on something to be good at and it WORKED!

Jake Virtanen could use some of that love. The Canucks finally played the patience card with Virtanen this season and decided not to rush him back into the lineup. His numbers weren’t other-worldly by any means but it looks like he learned how to be a pro. Does he become the power forward Canucks fans have longed for since Todd Bertuzzi, probably not; but he could end up being a valuable part of the team’s transition.

Alex Edler is another point of interest or disinterest depending on who you ask. Edler isn’t leaving the Canucks and even if he’s asked it can be assumed he doesn’t want to leave Vancouver. He’s starting to show wear and please, please, please change the flex on that stick. He still has a booming shot but he just doesn’t get the chances anymore to let it go like he used to. If Juolevi makes the team, putting him with Edler might be a smart idea and it would allow Stecher to play with Chris Tanev.

Much of this is assumptive and all of this could change by June.

Which brings me to the goaltending situation and where Thatcher Demko fits into all of this. When Demko was drafted in 2014, Roberto Luongo had just been dealt and Eddie Lack along with Jacob Markstrom looked to be the immediate future of the Canuck’s net protection. That didn’t last long. Ryan Miller was eventually brought in through free agency, Lack was shipped to Carolina and Jacob Markstrom still hasn’t seen this cup of coffee everyone keeps talking about.

Demko finally went pro this past year and had a tough go to start his career but down the stretch, he was unbeatable for the most part.

Cory Schneider took the same route as Demko when he was drafted by the Canucks in 2004, he finally made his debut with the Canucks in the 2008/09 season but only played in 8 games when Roberto Luongo was injured. Schneider eventually made his full time, well full-time backup, start in the famous 2010/11 year.

Luongo and Schneider went neck and neck the whole season and it was at that point that Schneider had truly arrived, six years after being drafted. Demko most likely won’t have to wait that long but giving him time to fully mature can only help the Canucks in the long term. Ideally, if he followed the same lineage as Schneider and taking into account the current net situation and the numbers he’s put up, Demko would be the bonafide starter in 2018/19 or at the latest 2020.

There are a lot of similarities between both former college netminders but given the current state of affairs in Vancouver, Ryan Miller (hopefully) will have kept the net warm when it becomes available. By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes.

By 2020, the Canucks should have a good portion of the building done, if not all of it, and the pieces being developed now will be reaching their primes. It’s time to look at the Oilers and Leafs rebuilds and understand that the process takes time.

Seeing Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier in a Canucks jersey makes the process easier to swallow but neither of them will be the answer to the rest of the problems the team still faces.

One year at a time.

photo – http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/bo-horvat-scores-winner-lead-canucks-lightning/sportsnet.ca

Canucks Can’t Embrace Rebuild And They Might Lie To You

Willie is fired, Benning is planning for the draft and Linden is spinning #fakenews. The rebuild began awhile ago but will it ever really happen? We’ve heard the song and dance that has been spewed at us since 2012 and even with the dismissal of WD they aren’t that much farther than when his tenure began. We were told things were better than they were, we were told it would go quickly and that the proper pieces were being put in place.

I hate to say it but whether we want to believe it or not, we bought into the lie.

Losing 2011, YES I’M BRINGING IT UP AGAIN, started the process and two different “models” were tested but it was never carried through. Feeble attempts at adapting to a newer, bigger, faster NHL put the Canucks in the same shoes as the failing Oilers and Maple Leafs’ strategies. Lose to the Bruins – get bigger, thug more. Lose to the Kings – sign a speedskater or have lots of really good players that are borderline suspendable.

There was an opportunity to nip this in the butt and the old regime as well as the new, let their chance slip. Moving away Ryan Kesler was bold and it’s a shame the return wasn’t more. The same can be said for Roberto Luongo. The opportunities to make a splash and keep pace with the Western Conference were there and in typical Canucks fashion, they let them pass.

So now we’re here and it’s pretty ugly. I never thought there would be a season where I would be looking forward to the potential of a first-overall draft pick and now it’s two years in a row. Pure blindness and naivety to the situation are probably the most frustrating to tolerate. It’s like watching season two of True Detective, you watched it but you were disappointed every week.

Trevor Linden said himself after he retired that he didn’t want to be involved in hockey to the degree he is in now. Bringing him in as a PR stunt and a figurehead has only tarnished both his and the team’s image. As GM Jim Benning continues to put together his version of what he believes the Canucks should look like, the final result gets further and further away.

.@rayferrarotsn: There seemed to be no cohesion between what the Canucks expected from their coaches and front office

— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) April 10, 2017

Management moved swiftly to remove Desjardins after another losing season and if it all were to go perfectly, there would be a clean sweep at the top including Linden and Benning. That being said, many of WD’s decisions this year won’t be repeated in 2018. Brandon Sutter might not even be a Canuck to start next year if Vegas claims him, Jayson Megna realistically doesn’t see much time on the big club and should probably be buried in the AHL.

Don’t forget Jordan Subban, the powerplay defenseman that shoots right, and is essentially the team’s best player that isn’t on the team. He could play here if there’s any sense out there. It’s easy to understand though because Alex Biega has been such a force on the Canucks and can fill any role whether it be forward or defense.

Removing the tip of the iceberg still leaves bigger problems underneath. The Canucks haven’t been honest with us and it’s pretty upsetting. It’s clear everyone knows what’s going on and if management stated the direction they were headed without the BS, we could support it. Is it going to be easy? No.

Linden is right, the prospects are coming but it’s the current situation that will keep them from getting over the hump. Next year, there needs to be a new face to the team, less focus on the Sedins being the focal points and more concentration on where goals will come from.

It’s insulting to the fanbase when we continue to be lied to saying “everything will be fine” and “change is coming”. Change should have come a long time ago and spinning the wheels isn’t getting things done. Bringing on Manny Malhotra was a nice start to change as faceoffs have dramatically improved in one season. Doug Jarvis was retained and you have to believe his systems are worth keeping around.

The next coach needs to have a teaching mentality but he also needs to have the “balls and grit” to compete at the NHL level. All the talk once again is about Travis Green getting the job. That’s swell, but it’s Willie D 2.0. You’ve had that coach already so you should have kept him around. Whoever comes this time around has to understand it won’t be a long-term position.

There needs to a coach who can suffer through the next phase of rebuilding and help create a winning mentality. No, not just a mentality, an environment; YA an environment!

But how do they GET this environment? Eating veggies and drinking Powerade milk bars? NO sir/mam. First off: SIGN BO HORVAT! It’s a simple thing, really. He’s the future of this team and he needs to know it. Second, platoon Nikolay Goldobin or Jake Virtanen (I really don’t care which) with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They’re not leaving, they’ve said so, so let’s embrace their mentorship and lessen the load. Maybe give them fewer minutes per game and watch their stats start to rise again.

Sign Ryan Miller to a two-year deal. In fact, make sure you do right away. He’s literally saved their bacon for the last two seasons and with Jacob Markstrom’s health (OK, Miller’s too!) we need a veteran presence until the Canucks are begging to have Thatcher Demko in the lineup. They also need to cool it on rushing prospects into the pros. I want wins and goals too, but let’s not be greedy.

On defense, stop lying and move Alex Edler because he isn’t an effective member of this team anymore and if you’re willing to move Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Edler’s a cakewalk. Parlaying Edler and maybe Ben Hutton too for a 20 goal scorer or even a few extra picks in this year’s draft could go a long way.

Rebuilding isn’t just a word. It’s a lifestyle. You know why the Oilers have bounced back and don’t say Connor McPlayoffs? They cleaned out any suggestion they were still hanging onto old ideas and the old boys club. I don’t know exactly HOW it finally came to a head but it did and wouldn’t you know it, the Oilers are good!

I was going to type that whole paragraph again and just insert LEAFS instead of Oilers but I’m too lazy. They did it too! Canuck Nation made for of those clubs for so long because we could all see their problems and the fix was so easy, well now it’s our turn and we need to take our own advice.

I say we, but I don’t work for the team. You’ve made that clear. This fan base is smarter than it’s given credit for and they just want to get back to winning. So win.

Win in the draft, win at free agency and win in the coaching search. The team isn’t just on the ice, it starts at the top.

This could be the Canucks moment to get it right so stop lying to us and admit you need to get better. We’ll follow you because well, we’ve done it this long so how could it get any worse.

Oh, you’re saying it can?

photo – canuckscorner.com

Canucks At The End Of The Beginning Of The End

If there’s one thing that is beyond frustrating about the Canucks it would be everything.

I had a perfectly good article half-written about the Sedins and why it’s time to retire and yadda yadda yadda they need to stay. The 2016 and 2017 seasons have been a cluster of both surprise and utter disappointment. Losing out on the 3rd overall draft spot in last year’s entry draft but getting a stud in Olli Juolevi and signing Troy Stecher out of college to find out he too, will one day be a star has kept the angry mob at bay.

The start of the Jim Benning era could have seen an immediate end with the lack of direction and insight into many of his decisions early on. It continued after coach Willie Desjardins’ first season when the rubber really hit the road and we all saw how the Canucks were going to be run both on and off the ice.

You would almost think they both had a personal vendetta against certain players or the team itself at times but things seem to be slowly taking a turn for the better. It’s anyone’s guess if Willie D gets the ax after this season ends or if Benning officially is on empty, what is clear though is what potential upside the team has going into next year.

Watching rookie Brock Boeser command respect on the ice as he dazzles and amazes with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi is a welcome change from the dull, dreary scene we’ve witnessed for the last few years. Boeser is a true star in the making with three goals in his first seven games and there is no doubt he will give the Canucks a much-needed punch of offense going forward. Same can be said for the young Nikolay Goldobin.

I was almost at my wit’s end for how the Sedins should have ended their careers but now I can see they need to ride it out a bit longer. The problem many have with them is that a suitable linemate always seems to elude them. There have been no efforts to split them up for longer than a period or two and the other mentality is that they still are the top line on the team.

Their declining production shows they aren’t the top line anymore and shouldn’t see the same ice time that top lines get. I believe the Sedins are still very valuable as a pair in a teaching role, much like how they were brought along by the president and former teammate Trevor Linden. We’ve seen Goldobin connect with the Sedins quite early and for him, it’s about effort and seeing the opportunity with players that can help him excel.

Could the Sedins get bumped down to the second or third line? Absolutely. In fact, it should happen so the progression of the franchise can take place. However it’s happened, Benning has brought the future a bit quicker than we may have thought and the end of this horrible beginning of the rebuild is almost at the end.

What?

Jimbo signed Jayson Megna recently to a one-year deal at the lowest possible contract($675k) and on the surface, we were ready for blood. Megna isn’t a first line player and that contract states it as such. What he does bring is speed and on a bottom six spot or even solely as a fourth line winger along with Derek Dorsett and even Michael Chaput or Brendan Gaunce, he can be better utilized with more effective shifts and a lot less ice time. It’s actually a monster bargain if done right.

Does the #ExposeSutter2017 movement pan out? Time will tell and if he actually IS claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights then a big contract is off the books and Horvat can take a few of those dollars while the rest can be used to bring in someone from free agency.

Treating this season as a write-off and gaining a potential “generational player” impact forward through the draft makes much of the suffering bearable. The Canucks have endured so many injuries there was no way this team could even potentially succeed to a possible playoff berth and through some of those injuries, an opportunity arose.

Markus Granlund will be back next year and can contribute on the second line, Loui Eriksson had the worst possible luck this year (much like Radim Vrbata did) and he will be able to rebound in 2018 with Granlund and possibly the Sedins once more. Somehow, Erik Gudbranson will be given another chance which kind of goes against the rebuild mentality because he’s just so bad, like he’s really bad, people.

We can go on and on about how things have to get worse before they get better and believe me, they’re bad. The toughest part in all of this is that the team itself didn’t believe they were this bad until it was too late. Had WD bought into what was going on, he could have salvaged a new contract as I don’t think he’ll be brought back.

The youth movement is coming in waves around the NHL and the Canucks finally have embraced it and at some point, they will benefit. It’s not going to happen overnight and next season will still be a learning curve but it’s coming around and within five years, the Canucks will be challenging for at the very least, a division crown.

They’re almost at the end of this terrible beginning and we’ll be able to breathe again if the franchise can make a splash in June.

photo – timescolumnist.com

Canucks Swipe Left On Right Handers

This is embarrassing but I had to google how Tinder worked before I wrote that catchy headline. Thankfully, I was correct in my guessing and I could keep writing this without error. Just like the popular dating app, Tinder, the Canucks are also consistently swiping left on right handed players. There are currently only 11 players on the 28 man roster that shoot right.

The results aren’t exactly exciting: Derek Dorsett, recent call-up Alexandre Grenier, Jayson Megna, Drew Shore, Jack Skille, Brandon Sutter, Alex Biega, Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Troy Stecher, and Chris Tanev.

Anyone stand out as a scoring threat here? If you answered Jayson Megna I’ll assume you’ve never seen a Canucks game before and I also would ask you to leave.

How important is it to have a right-handed shot? Well, it’s not the most important factor in deciding a team’s success but in an article from Corsica.Hockey regarding handedness of defensive pairings, it does play a factor in overall production. Thanks, Jackson McDonald! After reading that article, one could suggest that this translates to having a consistent opposite handed winger would benefit potentially the other wing and the centre on a given line. I’m reaching, potentially.

There has never been a solid answer complimentary player for the Sedins with a right-handed shot aside from Jannik Hansen and Anson Carter. Regardless of the success, they achieved together as well as with Alex Burrows, one can only wonder what a consistent right-handed shot would have done for them.

When Jim Benning went out and locked up Loui Eriksson to a contract of Luongo-like proportions, players like Kyle Okposo and David Perron were available, as was Thomas Vanek. Money talks and despite what the players will tell us, I’m pretty sure they can make a go on any team if the cheddar is right.

Current Canucks prospect, Jake Virtanen, is a righty and I get that he is developing but there has to be a spot for him to work on his NHL game. He doesn’t have to hang around but with the team all but mathematically eliminated from postseason play, let’s see him again. Looking back at the 2014 Draft specifically, William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers (not right-handed but cmon) were both selected after Virtanen and you don’t even have to check their current stats… oh I should?

Nylander has a healthy 18G, 30A, 9PPG and 21PPP. As for Ehlers, 22G, 34A and, 5PPG. Virtanen is working on his stuff when it’s near him, anyway.

Help is coming once NCAA sniper Brock Boeser signs and gets playing time on the big club. As they develop and become available: Lukas Jasek, Adam Gaudette, Jordan Subban and Dmitri Zhukenov will all be right-handed shots available to the Canucks as the team sees fit. It’s naive to think they’ll all be ready at the same time but Boeser, Gaudette and Subban could all be here sooner than later.

With no real finishers having a right handed shot on the Canucks, they have become predictive. Well, to be fair, it isn’t just what hand a player delivers his shot; the drop pass, lack of power play, lack of speed and not getting enough official shots on net, also factor in. The Canucks are almost dead last in many shot-based categories and having 60% or more of the team shooting from the left side will most likely keep those stats steady.

Vancouver is 23rd in 5v5 CF% with 48.20%, 28th in GF with 155 and shots for/game with 27.7.  They also have the 6th worst actual shooting percentage with 8.1%. Predictability has become the name of the game for the Canucks and blaming an aging core or poor line deployment is just part of the problem.

Willie Desjardins has his problems too, but he’s not responsible for attaining players to put on the ice. Jim Benning has slowly started to put together a team worth talking about but he preaches patience and with some of his recent signings/trades, I’m ok with patience.

Setting up the defensive pairings to accommodate the right/left configuration is part of the solution and many teams try and make their back end look this way. I imagine adding Jordan Subban is a good idea in this case and heck, I hear he has a decent shot to boot! This might even start the power play uptick instead of, you know, just not existing.

I don’t think the Canucks should employ a 50/50 split of right and left-handed players because that’s just stupid. But if you look at a team that doesn’t have opposite handed players in key positions, then yes, that should change slightly. I will say that some of the Canucks best line combos have existed with three left-handed players (West Coast Express, Sedins/Burrows, Bure/Adams/Lin…dang), you get my point.

To tie this up with a nice little bow, swiping left too much keeps you lonely, in Tinder and in hockey. Swipe right every now and then and there’s a chance you might score a bit… in hockey. If you know how to Tinder you may find this to be very informative. This is a hockey deal, though, so things may or may not have just got weird.

You watch, I’ll be right eventually. Correct, I mean. I shoot left, too!

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – independentsportsnews.com

Willie Desjardins Wasn’t The Answer To The Canucks; They’re Still Figuring Out The Question

Three seasons into Willie Desjardins’ tenure as the Canucks head coach and he still hasn’t been able to progress the on ice product to the next level. General Manager Jim Benning, hasn’t exactly equipped WD to the point where he may have been able to take the team further but he hasn’t hindered the Canucks chances anymore or any less overall. Benning can’t call the lines during the game so at this point, the coach looks like the fall man.

There are so many examples of why Willie Desjardins hasn’t been a great fit in Vancouver and aside from his first season as bench boss of the Canucks, it’s been amazingly painful to watch this team sink down the rankings. Willie hasn’t progressed the power play, the penalty kill is equally dismal and as you go down every category, the Canucks just aren’t close to being a forward moving team.

Winning faceoffs can’t be credited to Willie as Manny Malhotra has been the reason for their success in that area. It doesn’t mean they should make him coach, though.

The decisions are mounting as we get closer to the end of the year and decisions like benching new Canuck forward Nikolay Goldobin after scoring a goal just isn’t smart at all. A game later, he seemed to trust him more and even gave Goldobin PP time but I can’t imagine that was Willie’s call. WD is a developmental coach with players that haven’t quite made it yet and the body of work that we’ve seen is evidence of that.

In the AHL, Willie was great. He was highly sought after once he made it to the Dallas Stars coaching staff and once the move happened, we all found out that head coaching in the NHL isn’t exactly the same as assistant coaching in the NHL.

It’s no secret the Sedins are nearing the end of their respective careers in the league but Willie keeps putting them out in top minute situations and giving them first billing on the power play. The Sedins are phenomenal players and are still among the leaders for the Canucks in scoring but they aren’t THE leaders in scoring anymore and would need some help to keep up with the guys taking over.

So is this really ALL Desjardins’ fault? Not entirely. He inherited a team that was in transition and has been given second-tier stars to lead his team. Radim Vrbata had checked and rightfully so, he was underutilized. Loui Eriksson no doubt has checked out as well and he just got here.

Knowing the direction the Canucks need to go isn’t rocket science but they’ll have to have more than just Bo Horvat and eventually Brock Boeser. They’ll also need a coach willing to put these players into a position to succeed; Desjardins just isn’t doing that enough.

If players are proving their worth on the ice then they need to be given more responsibility, not less. Trotting out 3rd and 4th line players in the dying minutes of a game doesn’t exactly scream success.

Maybe WD just wasn’t ready for what was in front of him, I don’t know. What he should have been able to do was see which players were going to help aid the team and which ones hindered it. Going back to the Sedins, the never ending question of who their winger will be isn’t just on Willie D, it’s always been a problem.

From 2007-2011, the answer just found itself but when a player like Jannik Hansen statistically and analytically was the best option, WD kept putting fringe NHLers at the Sedin’s side. It’s just bad coaching is what it is.

Scratching Sven Baertschi or benching Anton Rodin has to be a red alert for management and it’s possible they’ll let it ride out to the end of the season, but why? How do they let a guy who dresses an injured player sit on the bench for the ENTIRE game hang around?

Do you think Baertschi has great things to say about Willie if he was let go; I’d expect an Alex Burrows type of confession from him.

Teams can their coaches mid-season all the time. The Canadiens did it as soon as Claude Julien became available because they knew what they were going to get. The current Canucks management just doesn’t have enough experience in these types of decisions. The scouting seems to be a whole lot better and the drafting is coming along, heck, some of the trades are even working out but the man entrusted to lead the team every night isn’t working any magic.

However this season finishes, be it the 1st overall pick or the 3rd, the Canucks need to retool and continue the rebuild course they’re on. Loyalty needs to be thrown to the curb as the Oilers finally did and their turnaround seems to be doing alright.

This team has lost its identity for the time being and no Boston or Los Angeles or Chicago model will solve their woes, it’s on the Canucks to figure out who they are themselves. Speed looks to be the direction the team is headed with some fancy playmakers in tow. Young studs in Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Boeser, Horvat, and Goldobin are proof this team isn’t dead.

Barely alive, but not dead.

We started off with “real good” and we’re now stuck with #firewillie. The Canucks fan base doesn’t like a loser and it wasn’t that long ago that Jim Benning was the man on the hot seat. He might get the ax too, but he’s bought himself some time since the deadline and his success at the draft.

There are way too many questions still with this Canucks squad but a handful of answers are showing up and coaching will be the first domino to fall. It’s suffocating to watch this team struggle to compete against even the worst teams, they deserve better.

Right?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouver sun

Canucks Taking Advantage Of Weak Division

Pretty much stating the obvious here but for the time being the Canucks would be wise to fool whoever they can while the getting is good. As of right now, the Canucks sit a point back of 8th and four back of 5th place in the West. This is the same Canucks team that earlier this year went winless in 9 games. There are a lot of teams that are worse than they should be and a handful that are playing above their means.

The Canucks are the latter.

I probably should have titled this “You Can’t Spell Canucks Without PDO.” I spent an hour deciding that, believe it or not. This time last year, the Canucks were also a point out of a playoff spot and were stringing together a few wins as well. Is this the point in the season where the good teams get lazy and the bad teams make the headlines?

When the NHL gets back to normal, which I believe they are going through some kind of parallel universe, the way the Canucks and teams like them are playing won’t scratch the surface on getting into the playoff picture.

As Willie Desjardins continually ices a team with line combinations only The Riddler would understand, we all ask ourselves how the heck this team has stayed competitive? They lack depth in the goal scoring department, the defense looks good but in reality, isn’t exactly lighting up the score sheet and as far as goaltending goes the Russian Roulette of starts is pretty confusing.

Goaltending has been a strong suit this season and without Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom holding down the fort, Nolan Patrick or at least his value in a tradeable draft pick would be very possible. It’s relieving to know they can bring Thatcher Demko along more gradually.

What the current Pacific division and to a lesser extent, the Western Conference, is showing us is that speed seems to reward teams. The Canucks are not a speedy team in theory, and their luck will catch up with them eventually and sink them back to the bottom of the standings.

Watching Henrik and Daniel on any given night is frustrating because they have been asked to be the number one line and they really shouldn’t be anymore. If this team was ready to embrace the change on the fly or rebuild or whatever, the Horvat line and the Sutter line would be taking over at this point. There is way more speed on the 2nd and 3rd lines and by giving the Sedins prime ice time, it’s strangling any chance for hope this team might have.

Every team that has a share of a playoff spot has some speed and the Canucks do not. The Sedin hooking penalty will go down in Canucks history but they’ve never been fast enough to out skate the league’s speedsters. Not to knock the Twins but if that is all the Canucks are hanging their hats on, they need to make sure they can stay in every game or get get caught watching the puck go the other way.

Bringing up PDO for a second, the Canucks currently sit 24th in the “luck” category and as they play closer to their actual selves if that’s even possible, they could jump into the top 10 within a week or two. The Pacific division hasn’t made many adjustments to stay competitive so that actually speaks well for the Canucks.

The Kings lost Jonathan Quick in October and haven’t bothered to address their goaltending situation. They aren’t that far ahead of the Canucks on the season, both teams have similar records and not like it would come down to it but I’d actually give the Canucks a fighting chance against LA in a playoff series this year.

Sneaking in this year would mean Vancouver would probably get Chicago and it would be a blood bath. There is nothing wrong with the Blackhawks and they may very well make a deep run this spring. They are exempt from this discussion as everything the Hawks do seems to work out.

Five wins in a row are pretty impressive and for a team that couldn’t string together two wins in a row most of the season, this is quite the run. It’s an outlying performance but we should definitely enjoy it while it lasts.

When you look at what the Blue Jackets are doing you get excited but like all Cinderella stories, the clock will strike 12 and you’ll be stuck with a pumpkin again.

Vancouver can still keep this going and build some faith with the fan base but they have to stop jerking everyone around and start making decisions that are logical. It’s not just management that has made fumbles and it’s not just the head coach; this whole organization has to be on the same page and buy in together to make a difference.

Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins need to stop nickel and diming this team and decide on guys like Anton Rodin, Brendan Gaunce and whatever it is they thought they were going to do with Loui Eriksson and move forward.

Having a perennial 25-30 goal scorer begging to be on the top line after he has shown time and time again he is producing with less than ideal linemates. Eriksson needs to be given the keys to the offense and if it’s not with the Sedins it should be with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi as a top line.

Life is good right now for Canucks fans but don’t hold your breath, the conference will right itself and the Canucks will be the team we thought they’d be.

Thankfully, 65 points now seems like a distant memory now.

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photo – yahoo.com

Matt Duchene Is True Foundational Player Canucks Need in Rebuild

It’s hard to believe the Colorado Avalanche would actually trade Matt Duchene but rumour on the street is that it’s in the cards. Duchene along with Gabriel Landeskog are apparently being shopped or will soon be shopped. The Canucks seriously need to kick tires on a potential deal with the Avs.

Not only would Duchene solved a serious void up the middle but it would force the Canucks to buy in to the future earlier and put the rebuild on the fast track. Safe to say, it won’t come cheap but competing for a Stanley Cup comes at a cost.

In the recent Monday morning musings with Ed Willes, the hint bomb was dropped that Joe Sakic wants to build the Avalanched around star Tim Hortons actor, Nathan Mackinnon. It’s a great idea and there must be some reason he’s willing to part with stars Landeskog and Duchene but who really cares.

The word in hockey circles is that Joe Sakic, the head of the Avs hockey department, will look to move Duchene and Landeskog and build the team around MacKinnon.

No one asks why the expensive Air Jordans are selling for $60 at your local Marshalls, you just buy them because you’re not an idiot.

Jim Benning has stated that he isn’t parting with anyone really but you have to believe that’s on a day by day basis. I say to myself every day that I’m going to work out but things change and also beer. I stick to the plan overall but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a little fun too!

We are now in the Christmas roster freeze which means no coaches, players or even Jimbo himself can be moved but there has to be talks going on. Both of these teams have needs and can accomodate each other.

Scoring Duchene probably won’t happen for Jake Virtanen, Luca Sbisa and a 3rd, so Jim will have to get creative. Going forward, who are the locks for foundational pieces?

– Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Chris Tanev and maybe Sven Baertschi? These are the current roster players that Colorado would be interested in most likely as well as a prospect and a pick. You never want to give up your best when someone isn’t giving back their best.

I could see Chris Tanev being involved but if I’m still planning on being the GM of the Canucks, the defense I’ve mentioned is a non-starter. Alex Edler would be available, Luca Sbisa and Erik Gudbranson even. On forward, Jake Virtanen, Jannik Hansen, Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund could be involved.

The Canucks always seem to be the ones giving up the house and it would be really nice if they actually saw the stronger side of a deal for once. There was the Christian Ehrhoff deal, so I guess that’s one for us.

With all the hiccups in Jake Virtanen’s immediate development, I just don’t get the vibe he’s giving. It feels like Cody Hodgson 2.0 without the shotty injury notes. Jake looks like he “could” develop into a top 9 forward, maybe a ceiling of 2nd line winger but even from the get-go, Canucks brass knew he was a work in progress.

Matt Duchene, however, is a star in motion. He’s Canadian, for one, a decorated Olympian, a goal scorer and a playmaker. The Canucks barely have half of that combination with any player, not named Sedin. Duchene is 25 years old and teetering on 400 career points. His power play stats are everything the Canucks would dream of and he’s right at the beginning of his prime. The day is coming soon when the Sedins hit line 2 or 3 and there has to be a plan.

We hear again and again, there’s no plan. Jake Virtanen has no clue what HIS plan is, who knows what the plan is in net. Brandon Sutter was put with the Twins and the $6 million man, Loui Eriksson, gets less time on the first line after every game.

As far as coaching goes, it’s up in the air too! Pretty easy to see that when the management group can’t even put together a roster to compete. Bringing in Matt Duchene makes way too much sense and it’s early enough in his career that he can be defined as a lifer in Vancouver.

Normally, these types of players only come through the draft but the Avalanche are also at a crossroads and this deal could help both teams move forward(s) pun intended.

I am on board the Matt Duchene train (hey, that rhymes!) and the Canucks should be too.

Bowness Coverage – The Canucks Hereafter

The Canucks/Lightning game surprisingly had a lot of interesting questions that needed to be asked after a randomly impressive victory. This team has some talent that is slowly being revealed to us as the opportunities come. One of which, is Jayson Megna.

Megna reminds me a bit of a young, raw Alex Burrows. His speed holds up and he has started to find his niche on the bottom six. After this season, Jack Skille will go and a spot will open. The expansion draft for the incoming Vegas (insert confirmed trademark team name here) will also take another player.

Who that is, has yet to be seen.

Jayson Megna is one of those guys that sneaks into your lineup and for whatever reason, he is impossible to take out. When Jannik Hansen comes back that may change things but maybe not. Jack Skille sits and Megna probably stays.

I like that Jim Benning has given some of these young guys opportunities and when we have thought otherwise, he has brought in valuable talent.

Markus Granlund wasn’t exactly a sexy addition after shipping out Hunter Shinkaruk, but he’s worked out and added depth where there isn’t much. Loui Eriksson is benefiting and who would have thought he could still put up points without the Sedins?

But what about the elephant in the room right now?

There is a certain awkwardness to the Canucks future that has us all pondering why they went from looking for a 20 goal scorer to not moving anyone. Telling us NTC would stay intact when former Canucks were spoken to to waive theirs.

It sure feels like there is more to this equation than Linden and Benning are letting on. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Canucks are looking to buy the NHL’s basement suite outright. Are the Aquilini’s involved more than we once thought?

Where does Trevor fit into all of this? When he arrived it was more of a ticket ploy, a marketing shtick at best. He doesn’t really want to be in charge, no way. When Linden retired, hockey was the furthest thing from his mind so it felt odd he would take such a prominent role at the top.

As we get deeper into the season, we’ll see one of the dominoes, if not all 3 fall; that being Benning, Linden and Desjardins.

Linden would make sense to step down whereas the other two will be a shift in direction. If this team is to make a change, someone needs to be at the helm that can do that without any bias or loyalty. Mike Gillis was that guy.

Getting back to the actual team in question, the injury bug is starting to fade subtly like bombs on your screen from the arcade game Lucky and Wilde. Albeit, Ryan Miller seems to have tweeked something again.

Jannik Hansen is set to come back as soon as Saturday against the Panthers, Chris Tanev might be next week. Alex Edler will be a 2017 returnee and unfortunately, Philip Larsen may not even get back in a Canucks jersey once he has his sorts again. We all know the Dorsett situation so his season is probably a write off.

Speaking of Dorsett, what does he bring to the Canucks as a fully healthy contributor? Imagine he HAD been healthy, how does he factor in to this team? The fourth line might actually have a banger look to it. Brendan Gaunce, Derek Dorsett and heck Megna, what’s not to like?

I’m serious. If Derek Dorsett is truly healthy, he might warrant sticking around. Willie might have known more than we gave him credit for. I’m fine with that fourth line for the next year. 

There’s much to think about with this group and as close as they are to a playoff spot, it’s December and adding more picks in the first few rounds makes more sense.

Plus, Benning will need more 2nds if he’s going to open up for business.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four